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What is a Dashboard Web Design?

written by: sherisaid•edited by: Ronda Bowen•updated: 7/6/2010

Dashboard web design is a concept inspired by the automobile dashboard, with aggregated data displayed in a format that can be understood at a glance.

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    Good dashboard design addresses both function and style.

    Dashboard is a word borrowed from the automobile industry and often misapplied to various types of content management. Much like an automobile dashboard, a web dashboard should offer all the information a user needs at a glance. In order to be most effective, this information should be offered in short synopsis, arranged in logical order (grouped with like functions) and uncluttered with extraneous information.

    The function of a dashboard is to enable the transparency necessary to monitor performance levels, allowing accountability to all users. This allows for better focus to redirect or cancel failing projects and to fairly allocate resources where needed. In short, it exposes the weak links in the company chain. Traditionally, one of the leading causes of business cost overruns is the inability of management to interpret and quantify project data. Dashboard design simplifies incomprehensible chunks of data into simple, graphical representations.

    Dashboards are a boon to large-scale project managers tracking multiple teams, each working on a discrete segment of a software architecture designed to be integrated. Since implementation of one piece of software often depends on completion of another, efficiency is vital to the overall effort. Compartmentalized pieces of the project can be tracked and corrected daily as necessary if the information is tracked and available.

    Some web designers have embraced the dashboard concept with giddy enthusiasm, often taking the design idea literally, making the dashboard page look like a colorful rendition of a cartoon cockpit. Others choose a more sedate approach of straightforward information tables, but whatever the approach, the concept is usually the same. Here are some public examples of dashboard design:

    Dashboard web design is a new tool in the arsenal of business efficiency, connecting and centralizing previously compartmentalized departments in order to foster better communications and facilitate accountability. When utilized as intended, budget stabilization and streamlining is achievable, along with early abandonment of costly failing projects. In addition, dashboard web design saves the valuable time of busy executives by putting the most pertinent information in an easily understandable - and easy to find - format, which in turn facilitates informed decision-making. Good dashboard web design reveals exactly what executives and project managers need to know, when they need to know it. Since many projects fail due to breakdown in communications, up-to-the-minute reporting can help prevent failures by pinpointing weak points before they become project-killers.